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Thursday, October 19. 2017
Fitness Review: Bodybuilding, Athletic Conditioning, Cardio/ Endurance Training, Powerlifting, etc.,
You can be fat and very strong, but unable to hike a mountain vigorously for 6 hours. You can be a fast runner or swimmer but unfit in most ways other than cardio endurance.
To participate to the maximum in all that life offers or demands, we preach a doctrine of "Fitness for Life." This is not training for a specific purpose (ie a specific sport, pure strength, or aesthetics), but just to maintain or, preferably, improve fitness after age 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever for people with relatively sedentary (less than 5 hrs/wk of physically-challenging or strenuous effort - not walking). Balanced, general functional fitness for strength, endurance, and athleticism builds energy, attractiveness and sexuality, effectiveness - and the mental toughness that comes from the discipline of physical training.
First, some terms:
Conditioning, or Athletic Conditioning, usually refers to your overall athletic preparedness. "Conditioning" can focus on retrieving or building your speed, agility, endurance, muscle fitness, body composition, and the like. General conditioning-specific activities, like calisthenics, often just use body weight and some light weights with very high reps (20+), and no rest. Burpees, lunges, box jumps, ball slams, roll-ups, and step-ups are classic conditioning exercises but there are tons of them.
Cardio/endurance training is one compnent of the above. An hour of intense, no-rest calisthenics is powerful and exhausting cardio/endurance training, as is HIIT cardio. If you aren't short of breath, it's not "cardio." (It's not "exercise" either. "Exercise" refers to exertion.) For naturalistic HIIT, a tough tennis lesson where coach runs you ragged, or a basketball game.
Bodybuilding is an approach to balanced muscle improvement. It entails about 5 sets of semi-high reps (8-12) of 50-70% of your max weights, with only a minute rest between sets. Contrary to the sound of it, it's not primarily meant to look good at the beach (but nobody wants to look nasty with lots or all of their clothes off).
Powerlifting is an approach designed to improve brute strength and power. This entails lower reps with higher weights, and more rest between sets. Often, out of shape newbies need a good period of powerlifting before shifting to bodybuilding. Experienced people often alternate between the body-building approach and the powerlift approach every few months to maintain muscle function.
All of the above play a role in general fitness.
I'll review our recommendations for people in half-decent health below the fold. Feel free to offer comments or critiques.
Continue reading "Fitness Review: Bodybuilding, Athletic Conditioning, Cardio/ Endurance Training, Powerlifting, etc.,"
Thursday, April 20. 2017
From The Ultimate Guide to Sets and Reps for Strength Training, I think these are pretty good common-sense guidelines for the powerlifts, based on your goals. For powerlifts, however, I would not ever go over 10 reps per set. Instead, up the weight or the sets. Too many muscle twinges can happen with higher rep powerlifts, I believe. Higher reps for small or isolated muscles are fine, eg tricep push-downs, calf lifts, curls.
Exercisers need to know their max, approximately, for their powerlifts. For example, if I can deadlift 300 lbs for one or two reps, my 80% intensity is 240 lbs. What I do with powerlifts (not saying it's the best thing to do) is a warm-up set of 10 at 50%, then 4 working sets which gradually work up to about 80%. Just for fun, about once a month I will see if I can increase my max for 1 or 2 reps but I don't count that as a working set.
Thursday, February 15. 2018
For powerlifting and related high-resistance exercises, we tend to alternate between higher (10) rep days and lower (5-6) rep days. Obviously, the number of reps reflects the max weights that we can do at those reps. 10 reps means you can't do 11 with good form.
Of course, over time you keep upping the weights.
Our format is to do a light warm-up with the specific exercise, then only four-five working sets. And that's it for my weekly deadlifts, for example. A younger person could do more each week (like twice), but there is a time consideration too.
Our typical weight exercises are below the fold -
Continue reading "5- rep and 10-rep days"
Thursday, January 11. 2018
For those who believe that you can burn fat with exercise (I do not), this format does keep your metabolism elevated for up to one or two hours after finishing. These sorts of things do not build strength. That's not what they are for. They are for energy, agility, and cardio endurance. Some powerlifters like to take the class because, despite their size and strength, they want agility, quickness, and endurance too. They have little of those.
I take a 50-minute class weekly which is basically Met Con but not labeled as such. A typical routine in that class might be a 20-second kettlebell swing followed immediately by 20-seconds of pushups followed by 30 seconds of mountain climbers, then a 5-second rest before repeating 3 times. Then a 30-second rest before going into the next triplet of calisthenics (which might be a similar pattern with 20-seconds of burpees, 30-second rower sprints, and 30-second squat and presses. The timing is everything.
I can testify that this format improves general conditioning, because when I began with it I couldn't really complete the class and stole seconds of rest time. I still steal a couple of seconds of rest time to catch my breath but I can get through the class.
More on the topic below the fold -
Continue reading "Met-Con training"
Thursday, December 7. 2017
Yesterday we had some agreement and some disagreement on the topic of the value or the role of "Long, slow, " aka aerobic, cardio workouts in a fitness or conditioning program.
My Conditioning program, which I hope to continue until something knocks me out of the ring, includes some pure cardio but it is a balanced and varied program designed to address all of the aspects of physical fitness.
What's the rationale, and what's that program? (Somewhat lengthy post below) -
Continue reading "Aerobic exercise, and balanced fitness programs in general for ordinary people"
Thursday, November 16. 2017
A balanced fitness program at any age has to include Strength (resistance, mainly the powerlifts for time-efficiency), Calisthenics, and Cardio. (As I have said, 5 1/2-6 hrs/week is all it takes to get into fighting shape - 2 hrs of mostly heavy wts, 2 hrs of calis, and 1 1/2-2 hrs of cardio.)
Cardio training is for general energy and endurance - but it is also to help you survive your first heart attack and to fend off senility. Weight training and Calisthenics do not require any age adjustments, but cardio training generally does because your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) tends to decline with age (or in my case, is actually suppressed by my BP pills).
This site explains how to calculate where your baseline cardio training heart rate needs to be - around 70-80% of MHR. That's baseline cardio training - not your sprints.
A few points below the fold -
Continue reading "Cardio workouts for the over-40 and over-50 group"
Wednesday, July 12. 2017
On Wednesdays we usually focus on general conditioning (fitness for life) and rarely on training for specific athletic endeavors. That's for a reason.
However, tough hiking is just an extreme variant of walking. A question might be "If you had three months to prep for a ten-day backpacking hike in Denali, or the Bob Marshall, or the White Mountains, or, like us, mountains in the Highlands, what would you do?"
I should modify that a bit. "What would you do, assuming you had a day job and little free time on weekends?"
I asked an exercise expert friend, a competitive athlete who can do several reps of 300-lb deads, that question. She said, given just an hour daily, the emphasis should be on lower body endurance and intense cardio. She said she would do two days/week of the usual powerlifts, but replace her other exercise routines with an hour of stairmaster with a 20-lb weight vest, and an hour of calisthenics with a 5-10-lb weight vest. She correctly observed that hill/mountain hiking is not mostly about strength but is about stamina, agility, and endurance. A person can be very strong without good endurance (and vice-versa). She said an hour of intervals on the bike would be fine, but an hour walking on treadmill with a 20-30 -lb weight vest at a high incline would be better for the purpose.
She also said that, from her experience, daily 7-hour mountain hiking with packs over 10 days can not really be duplicated in normal life. Best approach, when actually doing the trip, would be two to three days on, alternating with one lighter day for recovery. In fact, that is roughly what our guide had planned for our mixed group - two days hard, then one day lighter, and so on. By day 6, I felt eager to tackle anything. Pumped up and ready to go. Too soon, it was time to go home.
Wednesday, June 28. 2017
Getting stronger entails breaking down muscle so it can regrow stronger and it seems as if the eccentric motion does a better job of that than the concentric although the latter tends to be where we feel we are working hardest. In the simplest example, when you do a barbell squat the squatting requires eccentric contraction for your quads and glutes, and the stand-up is concentric for them. Vice versa for the hamstrings. That's why your trainer may demand that, in a curl or bench press, for examples, you lower the weight to a count of 5 or 10 instead of letting gravity do more of the work. Some people call that "negative" training, or just say "control it down."
Strength training offers a fun chance to brush up on your human anatomy. While most powerlifts engage the entire body to some extent (which is why they are efficient strength-training tools, like the deadlift), generally most of the work is done by specific muscle groups. Let's consider the bench press, which is designed to not be a full-body exertion but instead to isolate upper body muscles - chest, upper back, shoulders, and arms. The concentric and eccentric contractions of the bench are explained well here. You can see why your biceps get pumped during bench even though pecs and triceps do the lifting - the control down is an eccentric move for the triceps and pecs but concentric/stabilizing for the biceps. After all, you can't drop that barbell.
The only place I can think of where you let gravity do most of the work is in the deadlift where the control-down is less important. You can almost let the bar drop.
How to pack on muscle with eccentric exercise - Eccentric training has lots of perks—and it’s easy to work it into your routine.
Wednesday, June 14. 2017
My Wednesday morning calisthenics teacher varies the program each week for our group of 30-40 guys and gals of all ages - 30-70. Keeps it interesting. Today, this was the one hour program (you can google the names if you don't know what some of those things are):
The game was to start from the top and to do the number of reps corresponding to the number on the list. But not that simple, because after each time you got down to a new exercise on the list, you had to go back to #1 and work down to the next new one. Thus, by the end, you did about 13 Man Makers. Is that clear?
Then, after the 12 Burpee Box Jumps, you had to simply go backwards up the list to end with one final Man Maker if you had time. Everybody at his own pace.
Good workout, fun in a sick sort of way. She had to correct my Wall Walk form. Nver did it before - it's a bitch. Also, no way can I touch my toes in V-ups, but I did my best. I had to lower the box one notch for my box jumps - my legs were just too fatigued at that point to get up very high. In short, I did the best I could, with hopes to improve over time.
Sweat? Are you kidding? I used only 5 lb dumbells this time, but heavy kettlebell. Next time, lighter kettlebell too.
Tomorrow, back to powerlifting where you at least get a chance to breathe.
Wednesday, May 17. 2017
We are convinced that a balanced fitness program is the best route for ordinary people who just want to stay Fit For Life, with all-round functional fitness being the goal. Some readers disagree with our view, but that's ok. We're happy to hear your opinions because fitness remains a field with more questions than answers, every body is different, and everybody is an expert.
Readers know that our idea of "balanced" entails a mix of cardio, calisthenics, and strength-building/strength-maintenance while getting into fighting shape with enough protein and neither too much nor too little fat on your bones.
Some athletes, and many exercisers, tend to focus on just one of the three categories. That is unbalanced. Pure cardio exercisers (treadmill jockeys, runners, bikers, swimmers) tend to be weak in muscle and bone. Many guys who just lift can't run or hike up hills 15 miles or negotiate a ladder drill. And so forth.
One sensible way to structure a balanced 5 day/wk program is to put a 30- min HIIT (anaerobic) cardio day after a weights day, and a 45-60 min endurance (aerobic, aka "fat-burning") cardio day for the day after the second weight day. Then fit in a calisthenics/plyometric day somewhere else. That schedule allows 48+hr recovery from the strength days because the cardio doesn't interfere with muscle recovery, while heavy calis can. That's our under-5 hr/wk fitness program. Every high school and college should offer, or require, something like that.
My high school did require weights, sprints, and calisthenic drills for everybody for an hour after lunch, followed by your daily sport afterwards. They rightly figured that adolescent boys needed it, and the coaches were like drill sergeants. Mens sana in corpore sano. I think only elite private high schools require things like that now. It's a shame because all kids should have the chance to learn about fitness routines.
Answers to FAQs about the Maggie's recommendations are below the fold -
Continue reading "The Maggie's Doctrine: Balance in physical fitness for ordinary people of all shapes and ages"
Wednesday, May 10. 2017
It's "settled science" that we can do cardio, calisthenics, and isolated muscle high-rep weights (eg curls, body-weight exercises, calf-lifts, pull-downs, heavy hands, sports) daily with no recovery problem, especially under age 65 or 70.
For power lifts with serious weight, it's a matter of some dispute. Every gal and guy wants to build strength as a component of his/her fitness aspirations, and everybody has an opinion about it of course, but there is no dispute that only weights build bone, ligament, and muscle strength. Everybody likes strength training - it is terribly challenging to mind, soul, and body but IT IS BRIEF.
Having read all I can, and discussing the topic with my docs (who are committed exercisers) and my genius trainer, I think doing powerlifts twice weekly (half one day, the other half of them the other) is just barely enough for the over-45 year-old group. Three days/wk of weight training might be optimal for strength, but then where would you find morning time for your cardio and calis? We need a balanced routine to build or maintain General Fitness for Life. We are talking strength here, not Body-Building which I feel is a dumb but harmless sport.
Younger people can handle more lifting than older, but younger people often work longer hours than the middle-aged so have a harder time finding time. They have kids to feed and to take to school in the morning.
Thursday, February 23. 2017
Our dogma is that general Fitness for Life (as compared with more specific exercise goals) entails a balance of strength-training, calisthenics for muscle-use, agility, balance, and endurance, and some cardio intervals for heart strength and endurance. Plus decent nutrition to support the program goals.
Contrary to some biases and misconceptions, strength training is not mainly for muscle-head gym rats. It's for everybody's fitness if they don't do a manual labor job. It fights the deterioration of age.
Even people whose work entails plenty of lifting can benefit from strength training. If you do not learn the correct ways to exert your body, you can easily injure it or wear it out. Weight training teaches how to move things safely.
There are three basic categories of lifting: Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting.
Pure Bodybuilding focuses on muscle definition and appearance. Bodybuilding emphasizes individual muscle development over functional groups. General, functional strength training usually needs to include some more isolated muscle groups to work towards larger muscle groups, but does not focus on muscle definition.
Powerlifting is about developing power (defined as strength X speed). The fundamentals are squats, bench, deads, overhead press. Perhaps pull-ups.
Olympic tends to be a more technical sport. It is totally cool, but it's not for me.
General strength fitness training for ordinary people is a hybrid approach borrowing from all three types, but always including Powerlifting (which takes a lot of time with the necessary rest minute between sets). For example, a week's worth of my strength training often includes some sets of most of these: bench, deads, barbell squats, pull-downs, pull-ups, rows, press-downs, dips, curls, overhead press, hamstring curls, inclined bench press, sometimes leg press. Mrs. BD does some Olympic lifts too (amazing to me) but my shoulder can't handle them.
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